LongBow just posted a question in another thread concerning appropriate boats for float hunting. I responded with a series of questions to refine this down a little so we could have a discussion focused on his situation in particular. His answers made me realize that there are probably lots of folks out there with similar questions, so I started a new thread on this. Feel free to chime in. I'll start by quoting his post, and end with my reply.
These answers help a lot.
Because you are a new boater, I would start out fairly conservatively with only one boat. Three hunters will require at least two boats, and even two hunters, if both are hunting moose, will usually require two boats. Be really careful that you use enough boat or you'll end up dragging through the shallows and your hunts will be nightmares. Trust me, it's agony.
My recommendation would be to start out with a 14' self-bailing round boat or a 18' cataraft. Both have about the same load capacity, but the cat will give you lots more room to spread out. If you can afford it, I'd get a small trailer to haul it around; this will save you lots of setup time for those summer floats on the road system (which will buy you huge points with the family). Here are my first-choice brands of each type of boat:
SELF-BAILING ROUND BOATS
My first choice is Northwest River Supplies (NRS). Their boats are readily available, they're fairly priced, the company has a long-standing, excellent reputation, the boats are very good quality, there's a very good warranty and you have a large local distributor right here in Anchorage (Alaska Raft and Kayak). Other brands I would be comfortable recommending are Hyside, SOTAR, and AIRE. The last two are made of a plastic (urethane and PVC) which makes for a stiffer, better performing boat than rubber, which is what the NRS and Hyside boats are made of. You might also look at the Alaska Series Boats by Jim King. I haven't used them, but others here have and seem to like them. The first ones I've listed all have good reputations and have been around a lot of years.
In my view, only one way to go here; AIRE. I would specifically recommend their Leopard model. I have this boat and it works very well. Because it's a cat, it's a very versatile boat. You can run passenger seats on it, you can run a larger outboard on it, you can spread your gear out, it's excellent in whitewater, etc. etc. I even know of at least two people who have rigged theirs up with a half-top and a 35-horse outboard for saltwater fishing. Ten year, no fault warranty too! If you look at other catarafts (and I recommend you do), you'll see that the AIRE has a gradual bow transition. Contrast this to the NRS Grizzly Cat, with its blunt bow section. The Grizzly Cat tends to plow with larger loads, creating needless drag. The Leopard, on the other hand, slices right through with much less effort and works especially well with an outboard.
Be sure to search the old hunting forum archives on this site for more details on this; A LOT has already been written about fabric types, boat brands (including the ones I've written about here), and there is much more detail there that will help you further.
Thanks again for the excellent question (and the answers). Keep asking!
Others here have good ideas too; how about it, folks? Let's help this guy out!